I have been blessed with pretty awesome teeth. In my entire 52 years, I have had three fillings and those were when I was a teenager. Then, about ten years ago, those fillings began disintegrating so they had to be replaced. That has been the extent of my dental experience. Well, those fillings and the biannual teeth cleaning/check-ups I get regularly. On the other hand, my husband has super soft teeth which have required a ton of dental work over the years. I have so appreciated my relatively hassle-free pearly whites. Then, out of the blue, whenever I ate something cold, a searing tooth pain would send me to the ceiling. I kept a watch on it for a couple of weeks. It got so bad that whenever I consumed food or drink, I had to make sure it went directly down the back of my throat so as to not send me reeling in pain. My husband (with his vast experience) advised me that I probably had a cracked tooth which meant that I would probably need a root canal. Just saying “root canal” panicked me so I made an appointment to see our dentist.
Is it no surprise that your teeth also start to wear down over time? Think about all the chewing, crunching, biting, and gnashing our teeth are required to do. And while teeth don’t necessarily get more brittle as we age, having fillings, bacteria build up from eating too much sugary and starchy food, and the risk of gum disease all add up to weakening your teeth and therefore making them more susceptible to cracking and chipping the older you get. A Root canal is a dental operation meant to relieve the pain and suffering caused by problem teeth. It consists of cleaning the dental pulp out of the tooth, then disinfecting and filling the space that is left.
My family dentist couldn’t absolutely determine the cause of my pain, so he sent me to see an endodontist. I really didn’t know what an endodontist was. I figured it was just a dentist with extra schooling. That is true — extra schooling in doing exclusively root canals. I was referred to an amazing endodontist. While I have never had any experience with that kind of dentist, I knew right from the get-go, this guy was good. His office was modern (leather couches and a flat screen television in the waiting room; granite counter tops at the receptionist area; every magazine on the planet available to read and they weren’t ripped or torn). His staff were friendly and professional. The examination room was filled with all the latest technology and had a great view of the mountains to boot. All this external eye candy set me at ease. When the doctor came in, he was kind and gentle throughout the exam and explained everything in detail. I indeed had a cracked tooth, the result of a broken down filling. He explained what would happen if I didn’t take care of the tooth (the pain was convincing enough) and I agreed to make an appointment to have a root canal.
I was a nervous wreck for two days as I waited for the procedure. The term “root canal” painted pictures of something horrible in mind. Something a mad professor did. My husband prepped me with his past experiences of what to expect as well as a friend of mine who has had several root canals. They gave me good advice to follow but I was still pretty nervous. But I figured it couldn’t be too bad if I could drive myself to and from the appointment. I also had to schedule a dentist appointment for immediately after the procedure with my dentist. That was so if it was a routine root canal, my dentist would be able to immediately prepare the tooth for a crown. If the crack was more advanced, then the dentist would have to immediately pull out the tooth and make preparations for a spacer or false tooth to take its place.
When I arrived for the root canal, the staff was again courteous and kind. The endodontist again explained each step of the procedure as he went along. At one point, I was so relaxed, I almost fell asleep. No lie. The best news was that the tooth could be saved. Yippee. The whole thing took about 40 minutes. When it was completed, I was given a prescription for an antibiotic to ward off infection. I was also told that my mouth would probably be pretty sore, so take 4 ibuprofen tablets every 6 hours. And that was that.
Next, I was off to my family dentist. Since the tooth was savable, my family dentist prepped it for a crown. That experience was way worse than the root canal. There was all this water and tooth chips popping all over my face. And the smell of burning tooth was pretty nasty.
I took my ibuprofen as directed so I was never bothered by pain. In fact, the next day, I was more sore from the workout I did the previous day than from my root canal experience. Go figure. Pain and soreness was just never really an issue. Probably because the endodontist was so good. And by two days out, I was thinking, “What root canal?” All in all, I will not hesitate a bit should another root canal be recommended in the future.
Unfortunately (or is it fortunately?) this whole ordeal brought out another problem with my teeth, an aging problem that I didn’t even realize that I was experiencing. Apparently, I grind my teeth in my sleep and it is bad. So bad, that my teeth are wearing down way too fast to the point my enamel is vanishing. This condition is referred to as bruxism and is caused by stress and anxiety. I don’t get that because I really wouldn’t consider myself stressed out. I was way more stressed out when I was raising my family. Any way, both my dentist and the endodontist said my case was extreme and that I would need to get a mouth guard to wear at night when I slept in order to protect what I have left. Great. That will be a tale for another post….
Have you had a lot of dental work done? What has been your experience?